German juniors win FIFA U-17 World Cup, Stuttgart's youth shine

Xinhua | Updated: 2023-12-03 11:50
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Members of Germany pose with the trophy during the awarding ceremony after winning the final match between Germany and France at the FIFA World Cup U17 in Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia, Dec 2, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

BERLIN -- After an emotional day, Tobias Herwerth struggled to find words. The 47-year-old is not only the German first-tier side VfB Stuttgart's media director but also the father of Max Herwerth, born in 2006.

While the 17-year-old prospect in Indonesia won the Under-17 FIFA men's World Cup as a member of the German national team, the family head endured a challenging working day as Stuttgart's first team faced off against Bremen in a league encounter.

The Herwerth family watched the World Cup final against France and the nail-biting penalty shootout in the Manahan stadium back in Germany as "our two other kids weren't allowed to leave school for a visit in Indonesia," father Herwerth recalled.

The Stuttgart center-back's success serves as a perfect example of how German coach Christian Wuck and his staff have developed a winning team that captured the European title in the final against France last summer.

The German junior team became the first to win the European and world titles in one year.

The 50-year-old former striker emphasizes clearly outlined job descriptions and talks about "mentality, resilience, spirit" and "defenders that can defend, strikers that can score."

Wuck describes specific guidelines set up for strikers, midfielders, and defenders. When taking over the age group born in 2006, the German coach revealed that football skills such as a well-oiled technique aren't enough.

Team spirit and, what he calls traditional "German virtues", such as robust fighting and values, became the foundations of his work. "All of this has made us a strong football nation over the past decades," the coach noted.

VfB Stuttgart is renowned for a profound talent education, garnering the most youth titles in German football. Since 2001, youth training centers for all professional clubs in Germany have become compulsory.

Around 5,500 talented youngsters from the age of 11 are cared for by the clubs in 57 compounds, alongside 346 so-called support bases spread over the entire country, accompanied by intense talent scouting.

The average age of players in the German first tier dropped from 27 to 24.7 after the installation of the centers. Every year, approximately 70 promising players advance into the first teams of the first, second, and third divisions. Over 1.5 billion euros have been invested, accompanied by 700 criteria points that provide guidelines.

Wuck and his staff enriched the system by adding a catalogue of requirements. "It's important for young talents to feel trust and confidence and internalize the importance of team spirit and responsibility for the entire team."

Enhancing and optimizing a well-oiled system has become the main issue for the coach, while the German coach refers to "a golden generation born in 2006."

Despite the success in Indonesia, Wuck was far from completely satisfied as the former forward urged the clubs to "develop more trust in young German players" and provide them more opportunities to play in the first teams.

The way up from youth football, in his perspective, remains a bumpy one "which means we have to provide the best possible options for the youngsters to make it."

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